Pac-12 Picks

Pac-12 Picks: Big day for bowl pecking order

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Note: I do not pick non-conference games and those involving Arizona (since this is an Arizona-based Web site).

Javier Morales 2013 Overall Record: 27-10 (.730).

Javier Morales Against the Spread: 26-11 (.703).

Helmet.Utah

Helmet.Wazzu

UTAH at WASHINGTON STATE

When: Today, 1:30 p.m., Tucson time. Where: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash. TV: Pac-12 Networks.

Spread: Washington State by 1.5.

Why Utah will win: Defensive end Trevor Reilly leads one of the Pac-12’s best defenses, especially up front. He is one of the most dominating defenders in the Pac-12. He ranks fifth in the Pac-12 and leads Utah in total tackles with 83 (surpassing his team-leading total of 69 tackles a year ago) and tackles per game (8.3). Reilly also leads Utah in solo tackles with 50.

Why Wazzu will win: The Cougars are feeling it under Mike Leach, who should be considered for Pac-12 coach of the year with how he’s turned around the culture at Pullman. The Cougars are facing a Utah team that potentially lost its starting quarterback Travis Wilson for the rest of his career with a brain condition. Backup Adam Schultz, a former walk-on, will face a Wazzu secondary that includes Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist Deone Bucannon.

Outcome: Wazzu by 7.

Reason: This is the biggest game in Pullman since the Mike Price days. Playing at home, the Cougars should in control coming off their significant win at Tucson last week. They will become bowl eligible with the victory. Utah has struggled on the road this season, losing all three of its conference games away from Salt Lake City.

Helmet.Cal

Helmet.StanCard

CALIFORNIA at STANFORD

When: Today, 2 p.m., Tucson time. Where: Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto, Calif. TV: Fox Sports 1.

Spread: Stanford 31.5.

Why Cal will win: Well, it is a rivalry game and anything goes … under most circumstances. Most rivalry games do not have an underdog of 31.5 points.

Why Stanford will win: Cal fans like to talk about the 1986 Big Game won in an upset by Cal (1-9) against a ranked Stanford team that was 7-2. The game was played at Cal. This year it will be at Stanford. The Cardinal have won 14 straight home games, the second longest active streak among FBS schools, behind South Carolina.

Outcome: Stanford by 28.

Reason: The Cardinal should control the line of scrimmage and run all over California. The reason why I picked the game to go under the spread is because Stanford’s offense should chew up a lot of clock. The Cardinal will cover if Cal makes turnovers that result in scores, which certainly can happen. I’ll take Stanford in a workmanlike victory.

helmet.ASU

helmet.UCLA

ARIZONA STATE AT UCLA

When: Today, 5 p.m., Tucson time. Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif. TV: Fox.

Spread: ASU by 3.

Why ASU will win: Todd Graham has instilled the kind of discipline in his team to handle the challenge of a big game. The Sun Devils will not beat themselves. ASU is the least penalized team in the Pac-12. UCLA is the most penalized.

Why UCLA will win: In a coaching head-to-head battle, I’ll take Jim Mora against a relative upstart in Graham. Mora has coached in an NFC title game while at Atlanta for goodness sakes. Mora has shown tremendous innovation with how he operates with Myles Jack running the ball as a prime example. Mora has the athletes to such a thing and he has the guts to try. How many other coaches would play eight defensive players on offense?

Outcome: UCLA by 3.

Reason: Arizona State’s two losses this season were away from Tempe against teams that were building toward a good season — Stanford and Notre Dame. UCLA falls into that category. Myles Jack in the backfield makes up for the loss of leading running back Jordon James, whose absence from an ankle injury was significant at Stanford and Oregon.

Helmet.USC

helmet.Colorado

USC at COLORADO

When: Today, 7:30 p.m., Tucson time. Where: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo. TV: Pac-12 Networks.

Spread: USC by 21.

Why USC will win: The Trojans are already dangerous on defense, one of the best in the Pac-12, but now their offense is clicking despite injuries to receivers, tight ends and running backs. Cody Kessler’s improved play is indicative of how far the Trojans have come since Lane Kiffin’s firing five games into the season. Kessler averaged only 166.4 passing yards a game under Kiffin. In a more loose and relaxed setting under interim coach Ed Orgeron, Kessler has averaged 238.8 passing yards a game.

Why Colorado will win: First-year coach Mike MacIntyre has the Buffaloes believing. Who would have thought Colorado would still be in the hunt for a bowl with two weeks left? “I thought we could win some games here and I still do,” MacIntyre said in his weekly press conference. “I still think we can win some more left. They’re going to be real tough, against real good football teams, but now there is a little bit more to play for.”

Outcome: USC by 28.

Reason: The Buffaloes are better than last year’s 1-11 season but USC is much better than its 3-2 start this eyar with a bevy of high school All-Americans and collegiate stars such as Marqise Lee and Leonard Williams. This will be over by halftime, or at least it should be.

helmet.Washington

Helmet.OSU

WASHINGTON at OREGON STATE

When: Today, 7:30 p.m., Tucson time. Where: Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Ore. TV: ESPN2.

Spread: Washington by 1.5.

Why Washington will win: The Huskies will likely be without quarterback Keith Price because of a shoulder injury but backup Cyler Miles is an athletic player who can make things happen. The Beavers have struggled against similar spread-offense quarterbacks from Eastern Washington and Arizona State. Having a running back like Bishop Sankey can stabilize any offense.

Why Oregon State will win: Washington is 1-3 on the road this year and 7-20 on the road under Steve Sarkisian in his four-plus years as head coach. The Beavers are hungry after losing three straight games against credible competition — Stanford, USC and ASU. Washington with its injuries and customary breakdowns under Sarkisian are not in that class.

Outcome: Oregon State by 3.

Reason: If Keith Price can’t play or is ineffective because of a shoulder injury, the Huskies will be in for a long day. He is their senior leader. This is a significant game for both teams in terms of the bowl pecking order of the Pac-12. The Beavers get the nod because of the game in Corvallis, otherwise this is dead even.

WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report, Lindy’s College Sports and TucsonCitizen.com.

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